Featured Photo: Atomic Nancy (dublab)
The corner of 1st and Alameda streets in Downtown Los Angeles is an important place in local history — one rich in the L.A. cultural and music scene that should not be forgotten. Currently home to Señor Fish Cocina and Cantina, the Atomic Café was a Little Tokyo noodle shop owned and operated by Minoru and Ito Matoba from 1946 to 1989.
During the late 1970s to mid-1980s, their daughter, Nancy Sekizawa (known as “Atomic Nancy”) quickly transformed the quiet neighborhood bar/cafe in to one of L.A.’s most popular hangouts for local punk rockers, politicians, artists, and others. On any given night, you could see (and hear) the likes of Blondie, The Go-Go’s, Devo, X, and David Bowie sitting down having a bowl of noodles in the company of artists like Andy Warhol and old Japanese men with full-body tattoos. The legendary jukebox played everything from The Germs to Shinichi Mori until 4:00 in the morning as crazed waitresses would be jumping on top of tables trying to serve food.
Months after the Atomic closed its doors on November 23, 1989, Sean Carrillo and Bibbe Hansen opened the Troy Café, a coffee shop that provided a welcoming and nurturing space for young Chicano artists — musicians, visual artists, and spoken word performers — to share and hone their talents. Among many others, Grammy-Award-winning Quetzal played their first gig at the Troy [EDITOR’S NOTE: Quetzal is the headline act at the FREE Target Feria de la Familia at Plaza de la Raza on Sunday, September 22, 2013 @ 12 noon to 6 PM – Quetzal plays at 5:15 PM.]. Other performers at the Troy included Beck, Culture Clash, Maceo “Demon Drummer” Hernandez, Illegal Interns (Flavio Morales & Richard Estrada), Chicano Secret Service (artist, cartoonist, and writer Lalo Alcaraz was a member), Y Que Mas (female spoken word group), Boca de Sandia, and Cholita.
This corner will soon be transformed into a new light rail station as part of Metro Regional Connector Transit Project. This means that the historic single-story brick building will be permanently removed. The Little Tokyo Service Center, in conjunction with a number of community stakeholders, is working to ensure this story is preserved and represented in a permanent public art piece at the future Metro station.
Want to learn more? Visit Facebook HERE and share your stories about the Atomic and Troy Cafés. Follow the project on Instagram!
~ Contributed by Remy De La Peza, Sr. Planner and Policy Counsel, Little Tokyo Service Center (213) 473-3030, ext. 164
~ Edited and supplemented by Melissa Richardson Banks of Downtown Muse
“Atomic Show” by Depth of Sense: More Than Meets the Ear
“Atomic Nancy: Atomic Show ‘Fuck That’ music session” by dublab, January 17, 2009